“Gameboys” centers on two gay Filipino gamers

"Gameboys", directed by Ivan Andrew Payawal.

“Gameboys: The Movie,” now available on demand and on DVD, is a cute, feature length offshoot of the hit Filipino YouTube turned Netflix series. For those who need an introduction — or a recap — Gavreel (Kokoy De Santos) and Cairo (Elijah Canlas) met as rivals on a popular gaming site but ultimately, after considerable drama, became boyfriends. 

This new romantic feature opens with the guys living in Gavreel’s house during the pandemic. (There are many references to negative tests and online notices about COVID throughout the film). Gavreel, the outgoing one, is frisky, but he respects the more introverted Cairo’s desire to limit their affection to just kissing and cuddling. 

As Gavreel tries to wear down Cairo’s resistance during a movie date at home, the doorbell rings and their intimate night together gets interrupted. Terrence (Kyle Velino) has turned up in a bit of a state and needs to be cared for. It turns out, he will not be the only guest. The next day Wesley (Miggy Jimenez) arrives, creating drama as he and Terrence have a history together. Wesley wants a second chance with Terrence, who is reluctant to commit. Watching these attractive guys go from frenemies to holding hands provides the film with its sweetest subplot. 

Things get further complicated when another guest, Gavreel’s Aunt Susan (Angie Castrence) arrives. During a lunch with all four guys, Aunt Susan espouses strong attitudes about homosexuality that prompt Gavreel to not only go back into the closet but also take Cairo with him. Terrence and Wesley hole up in their bedroom to avoid Aunt Susan after this discussion; she suspects they are doing sinful things. That said, when Aunt Susan spies Gavreel and Cairo washing a car in the driveway, she notices that they spent more time spraying and wrestling each other than they do cleaning the vehicle. Scenes like this one provide yet another excuse for Gavreel to be stripped to the waist. (De Santos is frequently seen shirtless, providing the show’s eye candy.)

On a more serious note, “Gameboys: The Movie” emphasizes how Aunt Susan’s remarks bring up old feelings of shame for Gavreel, while also underscoring the struggles that both Cairo and Terrence have about coming out. (One of Terrence’s issues upon arrival was his parents’ thoughts about him being gay.) The film addresses these issues succinctly. One character talks about hiding his true self online because he can’t be who he is in the real world, a significant point. When Gavreel and Cairo decide to speak up for themselves and demonstrate their love for each other to Aunt Susan, it is an empowering moment. Unfortunately, she responds by giving Gavreel some bad news about his Aunt Myra’s health. 

Gavreel is dejected by this turn of events and the fact that he will have to separate from Cairo and go to the United States. When his bestie Pearl (Adrianna So) arrives with Achilles (Kych Minemoto) to livestream a fundraiser and provide some cheer, some additional tensions arise. Achilles is Terrence’s ex, and quite unhappy to see him (especially without warning), which provides more relationship drama. Gavreel soon starts to feel overwhelmed and plans an escape.

“Gameboys: The Movie” is best when it allows Cairo to comfort Gavreel, which is a nice contrast to their usual role where Gavreel is coaxing Cairo out of his comfort zone. The guys take a “just us” trip to the beach which allows them to talk about their relationship and their future together — including their immediate future, which they act on shortly after they return to Gavreel’s home. The romance here is mostly chaste, which may be why it is so heartfelt. Gavreel and Cairo are adorable together, as are Wesley and Terrence.

Director Ivan Andrew Payawal is certainly aiming “Gameboys” towards younger viewers, and the film’s bright style includes many scenes where characters are using Zoom, sending direct messages, texting, skyping, and more. Curiously, given how they met, the guys never actually play any online games in this film, but viewers could have a drinking game every time Gavreel or Cairo call each other “baby.”

The acting mostly consists of De Santos and Canlas being cute and puppy-eyed as the lovers, but they each do get dramatic speeches and moments of heartbreak that show depth to their characters. Both Kyle Velino and Miggy Jimenez are charming as Terrence and Wesley, respectively, but their characters are underutilized. In support, Adrianna So and Kych Minemoto give broad performances as Pearl and Achilles, but they do provide a nice comic relief.

“Gameboys: The Movie” will deliver for fans of the series and may even generate some new ones.